Festus Keyamo, Minister of State for Labour and Employment, has hinted that the federal government owes N7.3 billion to beneficiaries of the government’s 774, 000 Special Public Works Programme.
Keyamo stated this in Abuja on Monday before the Senate Committee on Labour and Employment’s budget defense for Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs).
He explained that the delay was due to bank issues, and he assured that the monies will be disbursed by the end of December.
The Special Public Works Programme was launched in October 2019 with President Muhammadu Buhari’s permission, and it is housed at the National Directorate of Employment (NDE).
According to the federal government, the program aims to address the problem of unemployment throughout the country, particularly in rural areas, by making unemployed youth more useful to themselves and society; participants will receive a monthly stipend of N20,000 for three months.
While clarifying the commercial banks utilized in disbursing the fund, Keyamo stated, “The reason we insisted on specific banks was because of the auditing procedure.”
This is done so that we have a clear audit rather than us chasing banks all over the place.
He said, “We said the bank should use their local branches to ensure that those 1,000 people selected in that local government area go to those banks within that locality.”
” The ministry have opened up the process whereby beneficiaries could use any bank in their locality.
“We have made an adjustment in the last few months. We are not attaching a particular bank to a local government again.
“So, no matter what it is, we will achieve 98 per cent success on the programme.”
Similarly, the DG, NDE, Abubakar Fikpo said that the agency “does not have access to the funds for the beneficiaries”.
He noted that the mode of payment to the participants was such that all monies were domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
“Each time we are proposing to pay, once we prepare the details for payment, what we do is that we send it to the accountant general not even CBN.
“It is the accountant general now that communicates with CBN that upholds these things and then pay. That is the process.
“What we normally send to the accountant general are names of participants, their account numbers, BVN, bank details and the amount.
It is the accountant general that instructs CBN and then they effect the payment which was why sometimes we experience failed payment.”
Following explanations by the duo of the Minister and the Director General, the Committee Chairman Sen. Godiya Akwashiki said that they will be invited by the committee for an update on the programme.
Vice Chairman of the Committee, Sen. Kabiru Barkiya however lamented the inability of his constituents to access the facility.
“In my state, Katsina, some of the beneficiaries were asked to go and open an account in a bank where there are no branches in the state.”
Barkiya called on the directorate to ensure that the yet to be disbursed funds got to the remaining beneficiaries.